Wuthering Moors 17

I still await Defra’s response to my FOI/EIR request (too busy buzzard bothering?).

There are various interesting parts of NE’s response to my request.

As I read the NE response there is no hint that they ceased legal action because they found they were mistaken or their evidence was weak – they certainly don’t say that anyway.  And they are quite clear that the Walshaw Moor Estate has not been required to remove any existing infrastructure that may have formed the basis of the alleged offences.

We may learn more about the interchange of views and information between Defra and NE when Defra gets around to replying to my FOI and EIR request but on the basis of NE’s reply we know that there were three meetings between a senior (Grade 3) Defra civil servant and NE which concerned (at least partly) Walshaw Moor and a telephone conversation and 10 emails.  Despite NE’s witty remark that this level of discussion might seem low it actually seems quite high to me!

There is a long explanation from NE of why you and I cannot see Andrew Wood’s witness statement (Andrew Wood is a NE Director).  This is not satisfactory and I do not agree with it.  I have gone back to NE and repeated my request to see Andrew Wood’s witness statement on the following grounds.

The fact that NE have dropped its legal case against the Walshaw Moor Estate over alleged offences does not end this matter.  It is open to any individual or organisation to take this case further, either by asking for a Judicial Review of NE’s decision or by taking a private prosecution against the Walshaw Moor Estate.  Given the lack of clarity given by NE for why they dropped the case there may well be people thinking of these options.

Andrew Wood’s witness statement must have been a carefully produced document that was crafted with enormous care by himself and other NE staff since they would have envisaged it being part of a legal proceeding.  It can therefore be considered to be a detailed, official and formal NE view on the matter.  Such a view would be pertinent to any future legal case against NE or the Walshaw Moor Estate.

As a public body it would be wrong of Natural England to withhold this document from the public as it may prejudice others taking legal action against NE itself or against others.  I would regard the non-disclosure of an existing, formal NE view on the Walshaw Moor case as being prejudicial to justice.

I have asked NE to respond to this request by the end of the week – it isn’t complex or unclear.  May we see Andrew Wood’s witness statement please?

 

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10 Replies to “Wuthering Moors 17”

  1. Keep up the pressure , Mark, as this continuing display of arrogance by DEFRA / NE beggars belief. It almost appears as if some form of "we know best" approach is being adopted and, therefore, don't you lot bother yourself with the details! Now I don't mind that if action is being implemented by experts in whom one has confidence, but I'm afraid, on recent evidence, that is a sentiment many people are no longer willing to extend to these bodies.
    On another front, have you enjoyed any success with tracking down the missing map relating to the Hen Harrier satellite tag recoveries? Another convenient burying of critical information. John.

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    1. I know how you feel Mark. I've been trying to get a simple honest reply from Defra for the last seven years to no avail. Let's hope you have more luck!v I think that civil servants and ministers see their role as NOT answering questions from the general public.

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    2. John, I agree but would only add that even if one has confidence in the expertese of the people taking the decisions the "we know best" is not acceptable. Where decisions are taken in which there is a substantial public interest one way or the other then the principle should be that the public should be allowed to see the basis on which those decisions were taken. Where this is denied there should be very strong reasons for doing so which does not appear to be the case here and certainly should not include "because it might look a bit embarassing for us to release this information".

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  2. What is Giles Bradshaw even doing on here? His views are clearly completely antithetical to the direction of this blog. I am really surprised they are published

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    1. Sam - your view appears to be 'don't publish views you don't agree with' but since I don't agree with that then I shouldn't really have published your comment, except I don't agree with that, so I did. Welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment.

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  3. I visited a local moor or two yesterday as part of a ring ouzel tetrad, one in private hands the other owned by Yorkshire water with shooting tenants. On the YW moor there were Fenn traps everywhere, lots of burnt and short heather, with almost nowhere long enough for merlin and short eared owl let alone harriers. Much of the upper part of the moor is blanket bog but is still gripped and burnt so Walshaw may not be isolated.
    The private moor is all or that part of it I visited all blanket bog gripped with some largish old burns and new cuts instead of burning. both blanket bog areas held goldies but used to also have gulls on tarns and dunlin. Over zealous management for grouse is in my opinion increasing with little attempt to have the 5-10% of long heather recommended. Moors are over burnt and over drained with the consequent loss of biodiversity never mind carbon and water issues, when will the world or at least NE wake up.
    I did however enjoy finding quite a number of ring ouzels most in the survey tetrad.

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  4. Good to see The Independent highlighting this issue so strongly today, and quoting both yourself and Martin Harper. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/wildlife-minister-richard-benyon-under-fire-in-another-gameshooting-case-7801027.html
    Great news on the buzzard turnaround too.

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  5. Hi Mark

    Are you aware that NE are the only body empowered to prosecute SSSI offences? Others that want to do so need the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions to do so. I'd have thought that if the public prosecuting body had declined to prosecute, there would be little chance of the DPP agreeing to someone else taking the case as a private prosecution.

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    1. Robin - yes. So judicial review is possible, or getting permission on the grounds that NE were spineless and hopeless might work - but we don't yet know the details of why NE decided to back out. No-one could argue that such a case might not be in the public interest or in the interests of justice. If the rgulators don't do their jobs properly then there miust be a case for others to do it on behalf of the public good.

      And NE didn't decline to take legal action - they started it and abandoned it with no proper public explanation.

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